In the lull before the elections in the United States, the situation of the veteran refuseniks, appears to be as unchanging and heartbreaking as ever.
A particularly tragic case is that the Slepak family in Moscow, Although Vladimir has been given numerous excuses for not being allowed to leave, the main one usually quoted by officials is that he had access to classified information. ‘This is despite the fact that Slepak has not worked in any so-called “secret” establishment for nearly seven years.
The continual harassment and persecution since 1970 has had visible effects on Slepak, his wife Masha and their sons Alexander and Leonid. During the recent “World in Action” television documentary, it was noticeable that Slepak’s hair had turned grey and that his face was drawn—clear indications of the telling ordeal through which he is living.
Towards the end of last year, the Slepaks decided that it would be better if Masha and 17-year-old Leonid left for Israel without Vladimir. Reluctantly, they agreed to divorce so that Masha and Leonid could apply separately without the fear of being tagged by Vladimir’s “secret” knowledge. The Slepaks were divorced in January, although this news has only just been made public.
Nevertheless in May, Masha Slepak was told that her application to go to Israel had been rejected.
Masha’s health, undermined by the years of nervous tension, has worsened. Her mother, Berta Rashkovskaya, who visited Britain at the invitation of the All-Parliamentary Committee for Soviet Jewry, has been waiting for her daughter, son-In-law and grandchildren to join her in Israel. Now in her seventles, she, too, is in poor health.
Vladimir’s younger son, Leonid will be eligible for conscription next year. Indeed, the refusal may be motivated by this very reason.
Activists from a number of Soviet cities have appealed to supporters in the west to campaign for the Slepaks, particularly in the coming months when, if the 1972 pattern is repeated, several prominent Jews can be expected to be released at the time of the American presidential elections.
Slepak was told at the end of 1972 by a senior emigration official: “It is in the interests of the State not to let your family out now. When it will be in the interests of the Soviet State, then you will be let out. Perhaps you will be let out next year, perhaps in two years, perhaps even this year. I might add, perhaps never … The same concerns you son”.
One of those who appealed for Slepak, Minsk activist Colonel Lev Ovsishcher, has himself been told that he must wait another five years before he can obtain an exit permit. He first applied to leave in 1971 and is the only one of the three Minsk Jewish colonels still in the Soviet Union. Naum Alshansky is in Israel and Yefim Davidovich is dead.
Kim Fridman, one of the leading activists in Kiev is in a similar position to the Slepaks. His wife Henrietta and 16-year-old daughter Victoria have now applied separately to emigrate.
The original reason for their detention was Fridman’s alleged access to classified information. Fridman, who first applied in 1971, said: “This long waiting had shattered us all”.
Another Kiev refusenik, Vladimir Kislik, a doctor of physical and chemical sciences, bade farewell to his wife and seven-year-old child three years ago. The emigration authorities refused to grant him a permit to be reunited with his family in Israel on the grounds that he had access to classified information at his institute.
Yuri Vudka, newly released from Vladimir prison, is to join his wife Anna in Israel. Vudka received the longest sentence—seven years—in the Riazan trial in February 1970. All the others then committed are now in Israel.
Now 29, Vudka went to the emigration office in Dneipropetrovsk to submit his application to leave. He was told to find a job, obtain a reference and resubmit his application. One official him: “Your place is in camps, not in Israel”.
In Vinnitsa, Mikhail Mager has been waiting to leave for over three years. His wife visited Britain earlier this summer to campaign on his behalf. Shortly afterwards, he was called in by emigration officials and questioned about this.
Jewish Observer 3 September 1976